The best books to kick your woodworking up a notch

Who am I?

I have been designing and building furniture professionally since before 1976. From the beginning I’ve had an avid interest in what might be called “appropriate technologies”— when to use a hand tool or power tool — that is, for a specific use, which one gives the best results for the least time and effort? If you read the journals of 18th Century woodworkers you’ll find they were unbelievably fast —using only hand tools. I believe that by the 1970s much of that knowledge and many of the tools themselves had been lost. I set out to rediscover them.


I wrote...

Woodworker's Guide to Handplanes: How to Choose, Set Up, and Master the Most Useful Planes for Today Workshop

By Scott Wynn,

Book cover of Woodworker's Guide to Handplanes: How to Choose, Set Up, and Master the Most Useful Planes for Today Workshop

What is my book about?

An essential and thorough reference that teaches woodworkers how to choose, set up, use, maintain, make and modify handplanes. It compares and evaluates handplanes from all of the world's great woodworking traditions — traditional wood planes, Stanley, German, Japanese, Norris-style, and Chinese planes — with in-depth information that will help woodworkers choose the handplanes that best suit their needs. It analyzes the six elements they all have in common, such as blade angle and mouth opening, and explains how these critical characteristics interact and can be varied to make any plane do its job more efficiently. Best of all, this book features more than 300 original drawings and 200 photos that are as technically rich and instructive as they are beautiful.

The books I picked & why

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Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking: Three Step-By-Step Guidebooks to Essential Woodworking Techniques

By Tage Frid,

Book cover of Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking: Three Step-By-Step Guidebooks to Essential Woodworking Techniques

Why this book?

This is on many people’s lists—and for good reason: an essential book, it will give you a solid foundation on which to build your knowledge and skill set, most specially if you are just starting out, though there is much to learn here for even the more experienced woodworker. Frid’s training contains the practical knowledge of centuries of woodworking passed through an apprenticeship system as it began its transition into the 21st Century, adapting power tools, new materials, and ways of working that will give you the information that will let you build almost anything. He wrote 2 more books in the set, also valuable, but if you can only afford one, get this one.

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking: Three Step-By-Step Guidebooks to Essential Woodworking Techniques

By Tage Frid,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a tribute to Tage Frid who passed away in 2004, combined with the 30th anniversary of The Taunton Press, this three-volume slipcase set is the most complete, authoritative guide to woodworking for readers of all skill levels. The books in the slipcase include: ""Book 1: Joinery,"" ""Book 2: Shaping, Veneering, Finishing,"" and ""Book 3: Furnituremaking,"" The techniques illustrated in these books are demonstrated step by step, with clarity and organization that allows readers to understand and carry out virtually any woodworking project. This is a limited edition.


A Cabinetmaker's Notebook

By James Krenov,

Book cover of A Cabinetmaker's Notebook

Why this book?

Many would say Krenov’s approach stands in strong contrast to Frid’s books. Krenov’s books contain much valuable practical information, but I believe the great value of this book is in his attitude toward his work. It is— and I know this is an overused word — but I think it is inspirational.  He speaks clearly and in-depth about his approach to and interaction with his materials; their interplay with design and function; how the physical act of doing the work affects it; his attitude towards time, energy, genuineness, and patronage, and achieving the highest levels of art, craft, and satisfaction. Highly recommended for artists and woodworkers.

A Cabinetmaker's Notebook

By James Krenov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Cabinetmaker's Notebook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cabinetmaking at the highest level is an art, a discipline, a philosophy--even a way of life--in addition to being a useful craft. In this book one of the greatest living cabinetmakers reflects on the deeper meanings of his craft and explains for less accomplished workers how the right attitudes toward materials, tools, and time can increase the joys of this complex activity. Craftspeople in every medium will be inspired by this account of getting started and developing habits that lessen the difficulties of a complex craft.


Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use

By Toshio Odate,

Book cover of Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use

Why this book?

This is the definitive book in English on Japanese woodworking handtools. Anyone who is or contemplates using Japanese handtools — and I strongly suggest that you take a second look at them if you haven’t already as there are a number of them that are superior in their performance to their western counterparts —needs to be familiar with this book.

Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use

By Toshio Odate,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Japanese Woodworking Tools as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic work on the tools and spirit of the Japanese master craftsman.

In Japan, a woodworker spends years learning to use his tools with great speed and skill. Only after he has proved his mastery can he proudly call himself a shokunin, a master craftsman.

Japanese Woodworking Tools brings the traditions and training of the shokunin to the Western world. Calling on his own apprenticeship as a tategu-shi (sliding-door maker), and on 40 years of woodworking experience, Toshio Odate here offers a complete guide to Japanese tools: thin saws that cut on the pull stroke, laminated chisels with hollowed…


Dictionary of Woodworking Tools

By R.A. Salaman,

Book cover of Dictionary of Woodworking Tools

Why this book?

R. A. Salaman has cataloged virtually every woodworking handtool and holding device used in the trades up into the 20th Century. What’s better is he understands the use of the tools and describes their use in practical detail with accurate drawings and text. You can find solutions to problems here that have been around for centuries but may have been overlooked by the modern woodworker. The information here will help you make and modify tools and will add to your overall understanding and use of hand tools.

Dictionary of Woodworking Tools

By R.A. Salaman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dictionary of Woodworking Tools as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its first publication in 1975, R.A. Salaman's Dictionary of Woodworking Tools has come to be recognized as a definitive pioneering reference work, one of unparalleled value to craftsmen, collectors, antique dealers and all who are interested in the subject of woodworking tools and their uses. His rich language describes and explains the tools, not only of the more obvious woodworking trades (such as the cabinetmaker, chairmaker, joiner, coachbuilder, cooper, shipwright, plane maker, wheelwright and instrument maker) but of the less obvious trades as well, such as broom and brush makers, tree feller, hoop maker, upholsterer, millwright, coffin maker and…


Solid-Wood Cabinet Construction: 70 Contemporary Designs with Details

By Franz Karg,

Book cover of Solid-Wood Cabinet Construction: 70 Contemporary Designs with Details

Why this book?

Franz Karg's book is a challenge: Design and build cabinets without any sheet goods—all solid wood— and make the designs exciting, the joinery accommodate stress and expansion and contraction while adding to the quality of design, or even inspiring the design. Working your way through these designs will kick your thinking and your construction approach up a notch!

Solid-Wood Cabinet Construction: 70 Contemporary Designs with Details

By Franz Karg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Solid-Wood Cabinet Construction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A master cabinetmaker shows how to build a wide array of lasting furniture for your living room, dining room and bedroom. Sharp photographs and detailed drawings provide the technical information needed to build wall cabinets and other pieces of furniture.


4 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in woodworking, Japanese carpentry, and carpentry?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about woodworking, Japanese carpentry, and carpentry.

Woodworking Explore 26 books about woodworking
Japanese Carpentry Explore 5 books about Japanese carpentry
Carpentry Explore 6 books about carpentry

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Anarchist's Tool Chest, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, and Measure and Construction of the Japanese House if you like this list.